By Helen Klein
Rich with tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and onion, and spiked with the heady flavor and fragrance of basil and garlic, ratatouille is the quintessential summer dish.
It’s also the perfect solution for using up an abundance of produce in a season when it’s incredibly easy to be seduced into buying way more than you need, or when membership in a CSA — my far from pitiful plight — means a steady stream of ripe vegetables just looking to be devoured.
A huge pan of my version of the Provençal classic is simple to make, and provides a flavorful bed for simple fried chicken cutlets.
And, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. The leftovers can fill omelets, star in a quick quiche, or become a tasty topping for pasta, so one evening of sautéing and stewing pays big culinary dividends.
1 medium eggplant, sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1 colored pepper, cored and sliced
1 medium-large zucchini or yellow summer squash, sliced, or a combination of the two
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 Tbl. olive oil
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 Tbl. herbes de Provence
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Salt eggplant, and set aside on a plate to drain.
Heat oil in large sauté pan or wok over high heat. When oil is hot, add onion, salt lightly, and sauté till golden, turning down flame as necessary. The onion should render its juices and turn limp, but not burn.
Add pepper and continue sautéing till pepper is crisp-tender. Add squash and garlic. Continue sautéing till just tender.
Rinse eggplant slices and add to pan, continuing to cook till eggplant has wilted.
Add tomatoes, with their juices, herbes de Provence, pepper and half the basil and cook over medium heat till liquid is reduced.
Add remaining basil, adjust flavors and serve.
Quick Breaded Chicken Cutlets
1 lb. chicken cutlets, thinly sliced
1 egg, beaten with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup bread crumbs, mixed with 1 Tbl, dried parsley and 1 tsp. dried oregano
Olive oil for frying
1 lemon, sliced
Pound cutlets with a mallet. Dip in egg, then in bread crumb mixture.
Heat oil to amply cover bottom of pan in large frying pan. When oil is hot, begin adding chicken cutlets, allowing room around them.
Sauté two-three minutes, till bottom is golden, then flip, and continue sautéing till second side is golden. Remove from oil, and drain on paper towels.
Continue sautéing, turning heat down and adding oil as necessary, till all cutlets are golden on both sides.
Serve on top of ratatouille, with slices of lemon.